Musing from the President for February 2014

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit!

I just finished an interesting read: not a fan by Kyle Idleman.  Kyle is a teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.  The book differentiates fans and followers with the subtitle: Becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus.  I don’t I agree with everything he writes; however, several times during my reading I wondered: “Am I really a follower?”  If Jesus asked me to go and do, as he asked Peter to go prepare the room for the Passover, would I drop everything and “get-er done!”?  Or, would I respond selfishly saying: “Well, I would sure like to help – but – I am not sure I know how!  And, you know I only have a couple of hours open on my calendar in the next couple of weeks!”  An honest, periodic assessment of our relationship with God is a good thing.  The purpose of the weekends we so diligently prepare for are for time away to nurture the relationship of fellow Christians with the God that loves them and desires a deeper relationship with them.

There are so many things happening in our lives these days.  I know in the depths of my being that the God we serve, the creator of all that is seen and unseen, loves us more than we can imagine or ever know.  We all know life is fragile.  Think about the impact of the last perturbation to your schedule and what it did to your life!  Even with a longstanding, deep relationship with God, we are distracted – becoming selfish because after all, it is really all about us!

I don’t know the “trouble you’ve seen, or are currently experiencing.”  I do know that God, in and through Jesus, came to the created, to demonstrate love.  God hasn’t left us alone.  God: Holy Spirit is with us and those that love God are close by to encourage us in our struggles.  Recently, I had the privilege, and honor, to witness a small group of God’s people work to encourage one another in a very difficult situation.  The details are not important.  What is important is they came together in God’s love to nurture and encourage one another to build up the body of Christ.  The task wasn’t easy – it was down right difficult.  However, they put aside their personal agendas with the goal of building up the body of Christ for God’s glory.

May the work of this ministry continue in and through each of us as we pray: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love….”

God bless you as you deepen your relationship with God and one another.

In Christ –


Nusings from the president – November 2013

Grace, peace, mercy and love from God: Father; Son; Holy Spirit!

I am amazed that it will soon be Thanksgiving.  I am not really sure where summer went and autumn, well that too is fading into the shadows.  However, I enjoy Thanksgiving.  It was and continues to be a time for family gatherings – a time to just be thankful.  Right now, I would ask you, the reader, to take a moment, maybe four or five minutes, and just “be.”  Be thankful.  Thankful you are where you are.  Not concerned about where you should be – or – could be – or – would like to be.  There is no question, no matter where you are things could be better – and – things could be worse.  Having a thankful heart is difficult, especially when we look at our surroundings and wish.

Please don’t get me started on what I wish for because there are many things I wish were different.  However, there is one thing that I am really thankful for: the ministry God has reminded us we have – being Christ to the people we encounter.  The smile on our face is genuine.  God: Holy Spirit has energized the spirit in our being.  Our actions and lives are not perfect but we are forgiven.  The most exciting thing for me in all of this is somehow, someway God always manages to take my efforts no matter how poorly thought out and make them all work together for good.

As we prepare for this upcoming holiday, I commend Romans 8 to your reading.  I am once again reminded it is all about the journey.  It is being Christ to one another and those around us.  We were energized by our weekend experience to serve God because before the beginning of time, God loved us.  We go into our daily lives knowing God is with us to encourage us and others.

Give thanks with a grateful heart – now and forever!

In Christ –


Musings from the President August 2013

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit!

One week ago we were leaving Palm Beach Atlantic University after a tremendous National Gathering, aka NLS AM 2013. There were seven wonderful worship services…thank you Lord for your Spirit with us – alive and in everything we did. There was a tremendous keynote offered by The Reverend Doctor Al Sager…He challenged us to Come 2 Go! Come and see…then…Go and tell! There were three Forums that were like weekend talks followed by discussion in small groups where stories were related and thoughts abounded. There was the Best Practices Forum where sharing continued and thinking continued regarding living into our life’s journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Once again I was reminded that Via de Cristo is a tremendous ministry, designed by God to facilitate the first three words of the Great Commission: “Go make disciples!” If you were able to attend, I encourage you to review of your notes and re-read the daily newsletter, Conexiones, (there is a link on our home page: for nuggets to share with your Secretariat. If you were not able to attend, I encourage your reading of the Conexiones to find nuggets to share with your Secretariat. Yes, there were business meetings but the value of gathering is not in what was done. Rather, it was in sharing and encouraging one another to persevere in our walk with Christ.

There is that word again: Persevere! That word resonated in my head throughout our time together. Persevere, a verb, an action word, to: “Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success.” Thank you Ms. Patterson, my fifth grade teacher, for teaching me about verbs! Thank you Lord for the reminder that we continue to persevere knowing your life, death, and resurrection has already won the race.

May God continue to bless our ministry together-

In Christ –


NLS Musings … June 2013

Grace, Peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit!

It is my joy to bring each of you reading this encouragement from God! What could possibly be better than the certain knowledge and presence of God’s grace, peace, mercy, and love?

Right now my heart is filled to over-flowing with encouragement for each of you that I find it difficult to know where to begin. Following God’s lead, after each of the first five days of creation, God said his work was good. After the sixth day, God said his work was very good! Then God rested… I don’t know where you are in your efforts: with your Secretariat; in your relationship with your family; in regard to _____? You fill in the blank with whatever thing, or things, currently causing you worry, concern, sleeplessness, stomach-churn, etc. Please know God is there! God is present! God will not leave you or forsake you! Persevere for the journey is not complete…

As I read the bible, God continually encourages, guides, directs, instructs (actually coaches) people as life unfolds. We often talk about the relationships in our lives: ours with God; God with us; ours with those that know God; ours with those that aren’t yet in relationship with God; those that we hold close; those that aren’t close; those that we cannot imagine ever getting to know; those we aren’t sure we want to allow to know us! The God of the bible, the creator of the universe, encourages us every step in our continuing journey of discovery. Please know and be encouraged knowing God cares and loves you so much! I trust that as summer unfolds, you will be encouraged in your journey and grow in your relationship with God and others.

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

In Christ –


NLS Musings …May 2013

Grace, peace, and mercy from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Some years ago, back in the Jurassic Age (June 1977), I participated in a class focusing on empowering people in the workplace.  The workplace was the military!  At the time it was a very revolutionary topic – empowering people: giving them a voice; preparing them to make decisions that affected the workplace.  This is a concept that many have written about.

Isn’t this what Jesus did with his disciples?  Granted Jesus, as God-Son, was infinitely better prepared to provide the teachings.  He not only knew his disciples from the time of their calling – he had known them from before there was time!  Yet, even Jesus experienced difficulties in mentoring his disciples.  Jesus chastised Peter saying: “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16: 23)  The disciples argued “which one of them would be the greatest.” (Luke 9:46)   Gracious!  These fellows were taught and spent time in the presence of the living Lord!  Jesus prepared them to be empowered.  I now have an idea of why God knew he couldn’t leave them, and us, without the Holy Spirit!  Thank you Lord!

As we prepare for and participate in weekend activities, please be reminded that we are working with disciples not very much different from the ones Jesus chose.  We are all fallen and have our own agendas.  Our weekends encourage disciples to continue their journey with God with confidence.  Weekends and follow-on functions encourage us to rely of God, to continue our journey with God together with other brothers and sisters, and to boldly go, empowered with God-Holy Spirit, into the places to shine the light of God’s love.

May we all marvel at the spring – the new growth in all of God’s creation, including the growth in ourselves.

God’s peace, love, and joy to all –


April musings from the president

Good Friday 2013

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

“There is so much to tell yet my heart is heavy!” I am convinced that’s how Jesus’ disciples felt in the time between his crucifixion and his resurrection. It is difficult for us, on this side of that first Easter, to imagine the emotions the disciples must have felt: sadness, certainly; regret, undoubtedly; fear, absolutely! The more I read and reflect on the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life, the more I am convinced that John, the only male at the foot of the cross, was not yet at the age of accountability. The other disciples were more than likely in hiding because they undoubtedly thought they were next! They, like so many other “revolutionaries,” would experience the same fate as their leader: crucifixion!

Yet, we who are on this side of that first Easter, look past the sadness, probably cannot relate to the regret, and, living in the United States, cannot imagine the fear. We look to the hope and the excitement of the resurrection. God’s love for all creation demonstrated in a very powerful way! What an incredible gift! Thank you Lord!

Isn’t that what a Via de Cristo weekend experience allows? A time to reflect. A time of joy. A time to rekindle hope. A Via de Crusto weekend is a time to once again experience the joy and excitement of the resurrection. A joy that stems from God’s love, tangibly demonstrated, and  a renewed confidence that we serve a risen Lord.

A question for us to ponder – a topic for reflection: What emotions do I (we) experience when I wake in the morning? What emotions do I (we) experience when I (we) leave my (our) Reunion Group? What emotions do I (we) experience when I (we) leave an Ultreya?

I find my journey oscillates between hope / joy / peace and sadness / regret / fear. Thank you Lord for the brothers and sisters you place in my life to encourage me on the journey. Thank you Lord for being there with me…for experiencing events and feelings with me. Thank you Lord for loving me no matter where I am!

May God continue to give us much to tell and a hopeful presence.

In Christ –



Musings for February 2013

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

So much has happened in the last month, I trust this finds you in the midst of God’s loving presence and not too overcome by the things of this world that you are not able to see God in places and faces.

A good friend is a Personal Trainer who is very passionate about her work. She is relentless in her interaction with clients: Are you eating the right things? What was your calorie, fat, carb, protein intake each day since our last session? [There is even an app for that!] Are you exercising as prescribed? How are you sleeping? Are you drinking enough water? The questions seem endless. Why is she so passionate about this? Because we are the temple of God as Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19)? I think not…it is probably because she wants her clients to get the most out of sessions and their work together.

Let me now harken back to Pastor Joe Neilsen’s keynote at our Annual Meeting last July (It is the journey, not the experience) and draw a parallel with my Personal Trainer friend. Let’s suppose you engaged my friend for a three-day exercise program. It is a great time reinforcing many things you knew and you are given pointers on how to improve. Since it is a group activity, friends (old and new) coach you! Then, upon returning home, no one encourages you to go to the gym. There is no one to monitor your calorie, fat, carb, protein intake. There is no one to coach you in your exercise routine (in fact it becomes routine – and – because it is routine, muscle memory kicks in and the exercises you do aren’t as effective as it could be)!

Sound familiar? It does for me too. How I appreciate the encouraging words of my friend as she continues to encourage me…every time I am at the gym: relationship, relationship, relationship. My weekly discussions with brothers and sisters in our walk with the Lord are so encouraging and life giving. Their questions are: How are you doing physically, emotionally, and spiritually? How have you lived a life of piety, study, and apostolic action? What is your plan for piety, study, and apostolic action in the coming week? Where have you seen God?

Gracious…there are people that care! Thank you God!! May I encourage you to encourage people wherever you find yourself…trusting God has placed you there.

In Christ –


January Musing From The President – January 17, 2013

Part One:
Grace, peace, and mercy from God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What makes the bible so special? Why is it that every time I feel just a little out of sorts, I open God’s word and it speaks directly to me? Why is it that when things are not making sense and confusion is rampant, I step back, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and ask God for some help, help comes – not always exactly when I want it, but, as I am patient, it does arrive. I believe the answer to all these and many more questions is that the God we serve is an incredible encourager!
To help think through this, I began recalling many of the biblical stories from God’s walking with Adam to the words given to John in Revelation. God encourages his people through his word; through answered prayer (I don’t always like to hear “no” – but – that is an answer); through other people both godly and ungodly; and through whatever method God knows will get our attention! God is the quintessential encourager!
So what makes our ministry together so different, dynamic, and life giving? Encouragement! Think about the encouragement we give those we invite to attend a weekend. Think about the encouragement people receive during the weekend: People I barely knew were demonstrating God’s love to me within minutes of arriving at the retreat location. Think about the encouragement we receive during our weekly or biweekly small group gatherings. Think abut our regular gatherings as a larger group, the things we call Ultreya’s – where the meaning of the word is: “Onward.” How rich is our encouragement to one another? How rich is God’s encouragement to us through his creation, his word, and his coming to this earth to reestablish relationship with not only us but all of creation!
To God be the glory! May you continue to be encouraged by the living God – and – may his name continually be a blessing to all that read this musing and God’s word!
In Christ –
Part Two:
I respectfully request your prayers and those of your Secretariat as the NLS Executive Committee meets in two weeks (January 27 – 29) to finalize plans the 2013 NLS Annual Meeting and the various aspects regarding the integration of an Executive Director. With respect to the latter, our goal is for the necessary draft documents to be in your hands as quickly as possible after our meeting to provide your and your Secretariat an opportunity for input and questions. We will vote on the final documents during our Annual Meeting, July 25 – 28, 2013, in Florida. Please make plans for your Secretariat to be represented at this meeting.
I also respectfully request your prayers for God to guide us in electing our leaders at our 2013 NLS Annual Meeting. As you may know, we elect half of the NLS officers each year: President, Vice President – Outreach, and Secretary in the odd numbered years with Vice President – Administration, Spiritual Director, and Treasurer in the even numbered years. Steve Gielda, our current VP – Outreach is term limited and a replacement is needed. Magdala Ray our current Secretary is not term limited but has requested her name not be entered into nomination. I am the current President and am willing to continue in that position for another term. If there are people in your Secretariat who would like to serve, please have them contact Carolyn Hawkins, our VP – Administration. If you know someone within the Via de Cristo community that you believe could serve in any of these roles, please begin the conversation with them and Carolyn. I can tell you without any reservation serving this community as an Officer is both humbling and rewarding.
Part Three:
At the beginning of a new year, many people look back at what they accomplished, what opportunities did they miss and what their plans are going forward. Many people evaluate where they are in their lives and begin to establish New Year resolutions. I think New Year resolutions are good as long as you develop a plan to stick with the resolution and make the change. Stepping back and looking at ourselves from many different perspectives is a good thing. At the beginning of a new year many people establish goals of wanting improve themselves by losing weight, quitting smoking, reading the bible, spending more time with family, being more discipline with finances, etc… Not many will argue that these are not good ideas. We know what is healthy for us and what’s not, yet we still fall into our sinful self and avoid focusing on the fundamentals of what God has called us to do.
As many of you know, one of my goals for this year is to help each Via de Cristo Secretariat and their communities to get back to the fundamentals and essentials we know are good for us. Many of us have strayed away from our core mission of building and strengthening our Fourth Day communities and put too much focus on just hosting weekends. Therefore, with the help of our Regional Coordinators we have developed a ½ day workshop titled; Rediscover & Recommit. This half-day workshop will be rolled out in each Region in the spring of 2013. We will encourage multiple communities within a Region to come together and participate in this workshop sharing ideas from across Secretariats.  We have a talented group of Regional Coordinators that have a vast amount of experience in Via de Cristo. To help cross-pollinate ideas we will most likely have a Regional Coordinator from another Region come facilitate your Regions workshop.
Your Regional Coordinator will contact you to identify a set of dates that will work best for the multiple communities in your Region. We encourage you to get your ENTIRE community together, NOT just your Secretariat leaders. We are hoping to have hundreds of people from across your Region come to the ½ day workshop to share ideas and Rediscover & Recommit themselves personally to what was shared with each of us on Sunday afternoon of our weekend…The Christ is Counting on YOU…and whom or what are you counting on?
God loves you and so do I,
Steve Gielda


Good day faithful Jesus followers of the National Lutheran Secretariat Board.

 I’ve been thinking of that word – “Hallelujah” a lot since I was in New Orleans with 34,000 Lutheran youth from all over the country. Rachel Kurtz sang the song “Hallelujah” as the closing piece at The Super Dome on Friday night and I wanted to share the video of that with you. You can’t get the “real” experience of being in the Dome that night, but I think it will give you a sense of what we experienced in just one six minute song.

As I was watching this video the other day for the thousandth time since New Orleans, I was preparing a devotion based on Philippians 1:21, which says… “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And I thought, “Hallelujah!” Jesus is my life!

What does that mean? Well, for me if means that everything that happens in life—all the pain and agony, all the joy and happiness, all the loss and gain, all the good and bad—everything is for a purpose. Hallelujah! It all has a rhyme and reason. Sometimes we are able to see it clearly, other times we catch but a glimpse from the periphery, and still there are times where we don’t see it all. Hallelujah!

Yet it’s there, that one singular reason, that one great hope beyond hope: we are nothing and he is everything. Through it all, Jesus is my life. Hallelujah!

St. Paul’s words echo in my mind and heart. Yes, to die is gain, but to live is Christ. This should be the cry of our hearts as we live each day. One moment our family brings us happiness, the next stress…but I press on. Hallelujah! One moment our jobs are secure, the next we’re laid off…Christ Jesus has made me his own. Hallelujah! One moment our health is great, the next the doctor has bad news…straining forward for what’s ahead. Hallelujah! One moment we’re surrounded by friends, the next we’re left alone…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call. Hallelujah!

Every moment. Every day. No matter what. Jesus is my life. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

OK, here’s the video – enjoy!

 The Rev. John C. Bradford
Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church 

10550 Georgetown Pike                                                 

Great Falls, VA 22066                                                                                

Love God, love people – nothing else matters.

A Morning Prayer

“O, God, for another day, for another morning, for another hour, for another minute, for another chance to live and serve you, I am truly grateful.
Do this day free me
from all fear of the future,
from all anxiety about tomorrow,
from all bitterness toward any one,
from all cowardice in face of danger,
from all laziness in the face of work,
from all failure before opportunity,
from all weakness when Your power is at hand.
But fill me
with Love that knows no barrier,
with Sympathy that reaches to all,
with Courage that cannot be shaken,
with Faith strong enough for the darkness,
with Strength sufficient for my tasks,
with Loyalty to Your Kingdom’s goal,
with Wisdom to meet life’s complexities,
with Power to lift me to You.
Be with me for another day, and use me as you will.
For Christ’s sake, I pray. Amen.”

Pastor Bradford